Roger Ailes died Thursday, April 18th reportedly following a coma due to bleeding in the brain after bumping his head when he fell. Some people admire how he built Fox TV into a successful broadcast network. Others have less regard for his doing so because of the methods and tactics he used -- especially the manner in which news quality was compromised -- often injected with tabloidism journalism with which Fox TV network owner Rupert Murdoch had long been associated.
Roger Ailes began his broadcasting career during the late 1950s, early ‘60s when numerous TV stations were producing live audience participation talk shows. The Central Ohio station where I was employed was developing their own network stations’ talk shows in several Midwest states. One station’s host was Phil Donahue. In a nearby Great Lakes city another corporation decided to also launch a talk show. They pursued hiring our show’s host, but he declined their offers. Mike Douglas became their host with Roger Ailes producing.
Later some Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered corporate broadcasting changes occurred causing the Douglas show and Ailes to relocate to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a long successful program run. Ailes continued to hone his producing, broadcasting skills. Association with candidate/then President Richard Nixon figured in his history as did the first George Bush who became President with Ailes help.
Eventually, when Ailes came to Fox TV some have reported he began gradually infusing a political perspective into news in ways that were less impartial – fostering a news department often viewed as being politically biased -- contrary to their slogan claiming “fair and balanced” that many viewers may have naively believed, apparently without independently verifying.
A little history .....
Several years ago I became concerned about Rupert Murdoch’s controversial actions in Great Britain’s media, so I followed what proved to be disturbing events there. Years later I rued the day Murdoch was able to gain access to our United States media market, especially given his efforts to gain control of so much media in Great Britain and then here.
Murdoch was an Australian publisher whose early publishing career focused on “…sensationalist journalism…” as described in his Britannica biography and multiple other sources. This lesser quality entertainment approach to news infused his publishing in GB’s media which was less than welcomed by people there who valued higher quality straight forward factual news accounts minus those sometimes allegedly questionable warpings.
Then, the Murdoch organization reputation became even more tarnished due to a phone hacking scandal and political involvements associated with some of his highest level closest employees in his growing media empire. This affair thwarted his making more media acquisitions in Great Britain for many years.
Most recently Murdoch and his sons’ 21st Century Fox corporation have resumed pursuit of acquiring control of Sky, theBritish satellite television giant, The Guardian reports.
Britain’s regulatory review is delaying a decision on approving Murdoch’s Sky acquisition until early June elections. Fox News sexual harassment scandal involving Ailes and more recently their star host, Bill O’Reilly who had to resign, has cast a shadow over the British review theNew York Times reports April 21, 2017.
Since I’ve been following the activities of Rupert Murdoch beginning when his type of journalism first aroused concern in Great Britain….. then when he later came to the United States….. made media acquisitions here -- I soon encountered the name, Roger Ailes.
Viewing Murdoch’s Fox News TV network programming had long since revealed to me that much news reporting there hardly measured up to valued high quality broadcasting standards. Learning more about Roger Ailes politicizing approach to news I expect also the senior Murdoch’s sensationalism orientation is reflected. Their apparent support and slant for Trump as a candidate and now President is not surprising either. At least one opinion on CNN suggests Ailes gave us Donald Trump.
I long intended to write about Roger Ailes but have increasingly wanted to do so given some of the issues of his association and friendship with Donald J. Trump.
Several years ago seeking more information about Ailes I read a biography with content documented sources. The book is entitled “The Loudest Voice in the Room” by Gabriel Sherman – “How The Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – And Divided A Country.”
Insight into Fox News Department operations and news formulations is interestingly presented in this Ailes biography. That same approach to Fox news may well continue though Ailes resigned his position last July due to sexual harassment accusations with law cases still pending, but Rupert Murdoch still owns Fox TV. (He owns other U.S. media including the Wall Street Journal which initially had some concerned about his possible editorial influence.)
TV viewers might well appreciate reading this Ailes biography for considerations when assessing production quality and influences related to Fox’s “fair and balanced” news as well as that of all other news media.
Television viewer ratings will continue to impact all broadcasters. Rupert Murdoch’s son’s are expected to assume more control of the Fox TV operations, so it will be interesting to see if that results in any news quality changes differing from what their father found acceptable and what Ailes influences remain.